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Free Content Privatizing the public: Three rhetorics of art’s public good in ‘Third Way’ cultural policy

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This article considers the development of cultural policy as part of New Labour’s Third Way governance and identifies three rhetorics of state-funded art: art as a form of cultural democracy; art as an economic driver; and art providing solutions for social amelioration. The text describes how the liberal conception of art and culture, i.e., having universal benefit as a public good, was extended to function within wider policy directives that were ultimately aimed at driving Third Way conceptions of public good. It provides a critique of the positivist claims for state-funded art as producing social transformation and instead points to how art commissioned as part of culture-led regeneration was instrumental and complicit with an agenda of privatization and marketization. It suggests that this has had negative consequences for democracy.

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Keywords: Third Way; cultural democracy; cultural policy; culture-led regeneration; instrumentalization; privatization; public good; social division

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Wolverhampton

Publication date: 01 January 2011

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  • Art & the Public Sphere provides a new platform for academics, artists, curators, art historians and theorists whose working practices are broadly concerned with contemporary art's relation to the public sphere. The journal presents a crucial examination of contemporary art's link to the public realm, offering an engaged and responsive forum in which to debate the newly emerging series of developments within contemporary thinking, society and international art practice.
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